EEG correlates of spatial orientation in the human retrosplenial complex

Neuroimage. 2015 Oct 15:120:123-32. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.07.009. Epub 2015 Jul 9.


Studies on spatial navigation reliably demonstrate that the retrosplenial complex (RSC) plays a pivotal role for allocentric spatial information processing by transforming egocentric and allocentric spatial information into the respective other spatial reference frame (SRF). While more and more imaging studies investigate the role of the RSC in spatial tasks, high temporal resolution measures such as electroencephalography (EEG) are missing. To investigate the function of the RSC in spatial navigation with high temporal resolution we used EEG to analyze spectral perturbations during navigation based on allocentric and egocentric SRF. Participants performed a path integration task in a clearly structured virtual environment providing allothetic information. Continuous EEG recordings were decomposed by independent component analysis (ICA) with subsequent source reconstruction of independent time source series using equivalent dipole modeling. Time-frequency transformation was used to investigate reference frame-specific orientation processes during navigation as compared to a control condition with identical visual input but no orientation task. Our results demonstrate that navigation based on an egocentric reference frame recruited a network including the parietal, motor, and occipital cortices with dominant perturbations in the alpha band and theta modulation in frontal cortex. Allocentric navigation was accompanied by performance-related desynchronization of the 8-13 Hz frequency band and synchronization in the 12-14 Hz band in the RSC. The results support the claim that the retrosplenial complex is central to translating egocentric spatial information into allocentric reference frames. Modulations in different frequencies with different time courses in the RSC further provide first evidence of two distinct neural processes reflecting translation of spatial information based on distinct reference frames and the computation of heading changes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Waves / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Cortical Synchronization / physiology
  • Electroencephalography / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Orientation / physiology
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Spatial Navigation / physiology*
  • Young Adult